Isro all set to test the `desi space shuttle' on May 23
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a first-of-its-kind indigenous space mission, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is all set for the launch of Re-usable Satellite Launch VehicleTechnology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) on May 23. It is cheered as a baby step towards the historic launch of the advanced RLV by 2020.
After a series of tests at the sub-system level such as actuator and flight control tests, followed by integration of the shuttle parts with electronic tests in March this year, RLV-TD was sent to National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru for acoustics testing. Now, the space shuttle is at Sriharikota spaceport and the final mission readiness tests are being conducted for its launch, which is tentatively scheduled for May 23, VSSC director K Sivan said.
"RLV-TD is a baby step towards the launch of the advanced RLV with air breathing propulsion system (ABPS) and reusable launch vehicle technology. The purpose of developing advanced RLV with ABPS is to reduce the cost of space launches, if engines and structures are recovered and re-used. Current RLV-TD has no recovery plans," he said.
Current RLV-TD incurs a project cost of Rs 95 crore. The advanced RLV with ABPS uses atmospheric air as oxidizer for combustion, with vehicle fuel to propel the rocket, and it can bring down space travel cost by 110th and eventually by 1100th later.
"With the first-of-its-kind delta wings that makes supersonic flights feasible, this space shuttle RLV-TD that weighs about 1.75 tonnes will be propelled into the atmosphere on a special rocket booster, all built indigenously," said project director of this mission Shyam Mohan.
After the spacecraft manoeuvres, which includes booster rocket separation when the vehicle ascends and then makes a hypersonic entry which is at five times the speed of sound, it enters a descent phase and glides onto a designated virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal some 500km from the coast.
"A key technology developed by scientists here is the re-usable thermal protection system (TPS) to make materials that can withstand extreme temperatures, that the exterior of the space shuttle will have to bear, when it returns into the dense atmosphere after its journey through near vacuum in space," he said.
It involved developing lightweight heat resistant silica tiles, that are plastered on the underbelly of the spacecraft, that can withstand temperatures up to 7,000 degrees celsius. The first of its kind indigenously developed carbon-carbon nose cap can resist high temperatures up to 2,000 degree celsius, when the vehicle reaches hypersonic speed, added Mohan.